Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Power of Positive

I love this time of year with first graders! Everything begins to click, and the kids are beginning to become more independent, better readers, better thinkers, and just all around neat kids. Today, I wanted to recognize several of the kids, "just because."

I have four children on daily reports: Every afternoon, they come to me and get their "happy note" (at least we hope it's a happy note.) But the other kids, well, they don't get "happy notes" because they're lovely children and don't need that daily reminder regarding their behavior.

But, you know, I think that does them a disservice: Shouldn't the kids who follow the rules and work hard get recognized beyond the occasional kind comment or student of the month award? I think so! So today, at the afternoon recess, I wrote several quick little notes to parents, telling them that their child had a wonderful day and that I was proud of them. It took the entire recess though, and I thought, "I'm going to go home and make a little note that I can send home regularly, recognizing excellent work or behavior."

I'm attaching one here, with the hope that you'll find it helpful as always. I plan on making others, so if I do, I'll upload them for you. How do you recognize the kids who always follow the rules, do their best work, and don't need reminders about their behavior? I'd love to have other ideas besides a "happy note."

(By the way, after I uploaded it, I noticed that my cute font disappeared because I left it editable for you. If you want a cute font for this note, simply highlight the text and change the font to one that you have on your computer. I apologize - but I didn't know how to get the cute font and still leave it editable. If you want a pdf version, I can easily save it as a pdf . Just let me know.) 
Positive Note

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

I think I’ve told you that I have a little girl who was adopted from a Chinese orphanage. She is the sweetest child and I adore her. Her parents were unsure of how she’d make an adjustment to first grade, but let me tell you, she has just bloomed! She’s reading at a reading level 11 and is an amazing mathematician! Best of all, she is so motivated about school – I’m so happy she’s in my class, you know? She’s just a wonderful little girl!

At any rate, today was the start of Chinese New Year and my little friend was bursting with excitement when we read a book about Chinese New Year and did a little Chinese lantern art project. She told the class all about being from China. There was a lot that the kids didn’t understand (we’re still working on English, vocabulary, and speech) but they completely understood her excitement and share it with her.
I wrote a simple little book about Chinese New Year that I’m attaching here. As always, I hope you are able to use this and find it helpful. 

Chinese New Year PDF

Friday, January 20, 2012

Professional Development Days - Please Don't Daydream!

Kristen at the Teeny Tiny Teacher had it right: Professional Development Days really should just be renamed to Please Don’t Daydream. We had a minimum day today so we could meet to discuss writing. 


And, what’s worse, is  - it really is true that what’s old is new again because this was like the movie Groundhog Day – it was a repeat.

Theoretically, we were supposed to learn about teaching writing to our children. In actuality, it turned out to be grade levels sitting together developing two writing prompts that we’ll use Forever and Ever in our classes.


I am dating myself, but about 10 years ago, we did that. We created writing prompts that were diligently given two or three times a year in everyone’s classes. We’d then sit together and pass the children’s papers around and read them. They’d get scored and everyone would get mad because their scores weren’t as good as they thought they should be.

Enter the Rubric Wars. The Rubric Wars were intense discussions lasting an entire school year – at the end of which, everyone was so tired of discussing it, that we let whoever was still yelling get their way.

Then we got a new principal a couple years ago so now, we’re rerunning Professional Development Days. I look forward to Rubric Wars 2. Anyone else out there rerunning Professional Development Days? 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Little Old Lady - A Twisted Tale

Okay, this is really bad! So, on the news last night in Southern California, the Talking Heads were all agog over a head that had been found in the Hollywood hills, or somewhere like that. I wasn’t really paying attention but then, the newscasters reported that along with the head, two feet were found. Shortly after, the report was that two hands had also been found. The newscaster reports, “To recap, as of right this minute, the following parts were found:
               One Head –
                             ( And I swear to God, in my mind, I said, “Nod Nod”)

               Two Feet –
                              (and my mind murmured “Stomp, Stomp”)

               Two hands –
                              (and my mind, hummed,”Wiggle, Wiggle”)

Only a primary teacher would see The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything in a somber newscast! Have I been with first graders too long???? 

And here’s the really funny part: I’m giggling my fool head off and my husband is looking at me like I’ve gone crazy. I explain to him about the book and the corresponding sound effects – and he says,     “HEY! There’s your next BLOG Entry!” 
I’ve corrupted him! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Day in My Shoes

The Adventures of a Sixth Grade Teacher is hosting her first linky party about what a typical day for her is like. It sounded like fun so I’m linking up!
4:15 a.m. – I wake abruptly up and realize it’s only 4:15 but I Am Awake Totally –  so, rather than stay in bed and wiggle until I wake up my husband, I get up and start the coffee maker. Yes, I know getting up at this OBSCENE hour is ridiculous; however, after 30 years of marriage, I know exactly how much wiggling it takes before hubby gets Ticked Off and Woken Up – so I get up.
4:15-5:45 – Blog stalk, drink coffee, watch the news – even though I live in Southern California, I’m hopeful for a Snow Day but  it Never Happens. Once we had a Fire Day…is it mean to wish for one of those?
5:45-6:30 Shower, blow dry my hair. I still can’t put make up on over all those scrapes from my Big Fall, but somehow, it still takes me the same amount of time to get ready.
6:30-6:40 Eat cereal and eat some fruit. Disgustingly healthy…I want a donut but I also still want my size 4 jeans, so I guess I’ll eat the cereal and fruit.
6:40-6:45 Get dressed and struggle to tie shoes with this brace.  I DO have a cherished pair of Velcro shoes that are awesome – maybe I’ll just put them on today…
6:45ish (sometimes later…) – Out the door and in my cherished Camaro and drive 5 minutes to work. Arrive well before 7:00 – I’m one of about three people who are Morning People and are at school early. (Plus, then I get the parking space I want.)
6:55ish-8:00 Prep for the coming day, run off stuff, cut out stuff, talk to people, etc. Kids come in during this time with their parents, who take their AR quizzes for them – I mean, Watch Proudly as their child takes the test. (No, I was honest the first time.)
8:00-10:00 School starts and I get my kids from the playground. I chat with parents and then start instruction. I’m also changing seats today because I Can’t Stand the Chattiness Anymore. Last Friday, I actually had two boys who Waved Me Off during a lesson. Excuse Me? Okay, we’re changing seats pronto.  TODAY.
10:05 Recess! I tell the kids that the teachers have their own place to play – so everyone goes outside if they’re done with their work.
10:20-11:10 Pick the kids up; read a story; Start the first part of my Math instruction (I divide it into two parts – first graders cannot attend to a full hour of instruction, no matter what the Gods of Curriculum say, so I divide it into two parts.)
11:10-11:50 Lunch! If it’s nice outside, I eat on the patio. Today will not be one of those days, as it’s supposed to be in the 50’s today. I much preferred the weather we had during vacation.
11:50-2:05 I Hate Tuesdays. Whoever created the schedules this year put both my Planning Period (the kids go to P.E., Art, or Music) AND Library all on the same day, so Tuesday afternoons are awful. I am happy to have my Planning Period, and I get a lot done but then, the kids come back from P.E. and their recess and we have to Calm Down Because It’s Library Time. They NEVER calm down – we go there and the kids Destroy the Library and Scream at the top of their lungs. I have gone so far as to take the kids from the library because of their behavior – and they don’t care. We are getting better, but it’s still far from perfect. I am sure the librarians (we use parent volunteers) think my class is obnoxious. Oh wait, it’s their own kids so maybe not…
We come back from the library and finish up our last part of Math Instruction, pack up, and go home. School is over at 2:05.
2:05-4:00 Prepare instruction for the next day and talk to my friends at school. Go to meetings. Go to more meetings. Talk to parents on the phone and read my email. Grade some papers, if I have time.
4:00ish – Go home and grade the rest of the papers, sitting in my comfortable chair in front of the tv, watching my dvr programs that I’ve taped because they’re Past My Bedtime.
5:30 My hubby comes home and we walk two and a half miles. Yes, I’m still walking, in spite of my Big Fall. When we come back, I cook dinner and my hubby cleans up my mess. I am a good cook but I tend to use a lot of dishes in the process. My hubby cleans up, which I appreciate it.
After dinner, I either keep working on school stuff OR I read/watch tv/fall asleep in my chair.
8:00 I’m embarrassed to admit this but it’s bedtime. I think I have an earlier bedtime than most of my first graders. But, I’m Done – It’s been a long day and I go to bed. I turn on the tv in the bedroom and fall asleep watching my shows. Sometimes I stay up until 10 but usually, my husband comes in and takes my glasses off and shuts the tv off – usually about 5 minutes after I’ve crawled into bed.

By now, it has been established that I’m a workaholic who has no life…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Common Core Assessments

Our district has jumped on the Common Core assessment bandwagon: Every six weeks, we assess the kids on material that our reading program is supposed to adequately teach. (We have Houghton Mifflin). Well, of COURSE it doesn't - the lessons are extremely superficial, and often, the concepts assessed aren't taught at all. That was the case with this next assessment. It has several questions based on little stories: The children are supposed to be able to tell which sentences do not belong in the story, what would make a good ending sentence, and which sentence best fits the story. So, to help my kids understand this concept better, I've made a series of little stories that (hopefully) will help them understand this very difficult concept. I've attached it here for you all - I warn you, it is very basic looking - I purposely didn't add graphics. However, it did a really good job of explaining the concept and it seems like my kids are understanding this - of course, we'll see in a couple of weeks, when we take our next round of assessments. As always, I hope that this will be useful.
Assessmt 4 Quiz PDF

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I just got back from the doctor's office and I have great news! My wrist is NOT broken - it's just badly bruised! The temporary cast is off and has been replaced with a brace that I have to wear for a couple of weeks. I'm totally okay with that though, because (here's a little Too Much Information) now I can take it off to shower and wash my hair! This entire last week has been a Meet and Greet with a big garbage bag and a one handed hair washing. Not Fun. 

PLUS, now I can blow dry my hair without bracing the dryer on the counter and leaning over it to dry my hair. (This technique is not recommended, as you end up with hair that looks like a dandelion gone to's a look - and not necessarily one that I recommend when spending the day with six year olds. I got Many Many Comments about how funny I looked. Tact is not one of this class's strong points.)

My kiddos will be unhappy, though, because I think they had visions of signing a big cast with Mrs. Mac's Never Come Off Till You're Dead Markers (aka Sharpies). 

Thank you ALL for your supportive and funny comments and emails! I honestly appreciate it more than I can tell you! You all ROCK! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Farley's having another Currently Party - I thought I'd join in! See her blog for more information and a giveaway!

Currently PDF
I know there has to be a way to do this without embedding through Scribd but I don't know how - anyone know and could share?

Monday, January 9, 2012

You Should See the Other Guy!

So sorry I’ve been off the blog lately. I had a little accident last week when walking with my hubby: I tripped on a raised portion of sidewalk and went FLYING! I landed hard and currently am in a temporary cast on my left hand while the doctors determine whether it’s broken or not. In addition, I managed to land on my face so I have a broken nose and a set of LOVELY black and blue eyes. People, I’m a HOT MESS!
In spite of it all, though, I’m honestly not as bad as I look, which I’m grateful for. School started back today and even though I was deeply unhappy about having to go to school without make-up (lots of scrapes – why bother trying to cover up the small amount that wasn’t scraped?), I went anyway. My children were very surprised, to say the least!
But, by the end of the day, the kindest things happened: One of my students has a dad who is a doctor and he offered to give me a check-up and  a former mom who is an eye doctor stopped in to check my eyes, just to be sure! Isn’t that nice?
At any rate, I apologize for not writing. I owe a thank you for an award I was given. Thanks to Chrissy from First Grade Found Me for giving me the Versatile Award. I appreciate it very much! Once I am a little more less “hand”-icapped, I will finish the rest of the award requirements. I am discovering how difficult it is to type with one hand!  Keep your fingers crossed for me- I go back to the doctors on Wednesday and will find out then whether or not my hand is broken. (I’m hoping not!)

I had to add this, even though it’s hard to type but it’s so funny, I’m laughing and my husband is in hysterics. So, at the end of the day, my little girl who is the star of my blog entry called, “Nope, Not That Hand Either” comes up to me to get her happy note and says to me, “You look different today, Mrs. M.” and I smiled and said, “I know.” One of my little guys who is just a sweetie, puts his arm around her and tries to explain, “Mrs. Mac hurt herself and has lots of bruises and a cast. That’s why she looks different, honey.” (All the kids just adore this little girl). And she looks right at him and says, “Nah… that’s not it.”  Don’t you love it? 

Monday, January 2, 2012

1000 Followers for the Teeny Tiny Teacher

A Teeny Tiny Teacher

Kristen, at the Teeny Tiny Teacher has just hit 1000 followers! WOW! I'm so impressed I can hardly stand it! To celebrate, she's having a giveaway for 3 followers. You might win an Amazon gift card! Check it out!